Thursday, October 11, 2012

Capitoline Hill

Of Rome's seven hills, the Capitoline Hill  is the most sacred. The Capitoline Hill is where the city's first and holiest temples stood, including its most sacred, the Temple to Jupiter and the Capitoline Triad (Jupiter, Juno, and their daughter Minerva). Today, Capitoline Hill is home to the Capitoline Museum, a world-class museum of Roman artefacts.

In ancient times, the Capitoline Hill was the nerve center of the Roman Empire. The great Temple to Jupiter and the Capitoline Triad was constructed under Rome's last king, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, and was considered one of the largest and the most beautiful temples in the city. When the Celtic Gauls raided Rome in 390 BC, the Capitoline Hill was the one section of the city to evade capture by the barbarians.

The Capitoline echoes with famous events in Roman history. It was here that Brutus and the assassins locked themselves inside the Temple of Jupiter after murdering Caesar; here that the Gracchi plotted and died; here the triumphant generals overlooked the city for which they fought; here that the Gauls, creeping to the Citadel, were let in by the infamous Vestal Virgin Tarpeia.
Political criminals were murdered by being thrown off the steep crest of the Capitoline Hill to the dagger-sharp Tarpeian Rocks below. When Julius Caesar suffered an accident during his Triumph, he approached the hill and Jupiter's temple on his knees as a way of averting the unlucky omen. Apparently not successful, he was murdered six months later.

By the Middle Ages, Monte Caprino (Goat Hill), as the hill was called, had fallen into ruin. But in 1536 Pope Paul III (1468-1549) decided to restore its grandeur for the triumphal entry into the city of Charles V (1500-58), the Holy Roman Emperor. He called upon Michelangelo to create the staircase ramp, the buildings and facades on three sides of the Capitoline Hill, the slightly convex pavement and its decoration, and the pedestal for the bronze equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius.

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